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- OLD MOTHER WEST WIND - 3/11 -
the Merry Little Breezes, all were there. Last of all came Jimmy Skunk. Very handsome he looked in his shining black coat and very sorry he appeared that such a dreadful thing should have happened. He told Mrs. Grouse how badly he felt, and he loudly demanded that the culprit should be found out and severely punished.
Old Dame Nature has the most smiling face in the world, but this time it was very, very grave indeed. First she asked little Mrs. Grouse to tell her story all over again that all might hear. Then each in turn was asked to tell where he had been the night before. Johnny Chuck, Happy Jack Squirrel, Striped Chipmunk, Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow had gone to bed when Mr. Sun went down behind the Purple Hills. Jerry Muskrat, Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog and Spotty the Turtle had not left the Smiling Pool. Bobby Coon had been down in Farmer Brown's cornfield. Hooty the Owl had been hunting in the lower end of the Green Meadows. Peter Rabbit had been down in the berry patch. Mr. Toad had been under the piece of bark which he called a house. Old Dame Nature called on Jimmy Skunk last of all. Jimmy protested that he had been very, very tired and had gone to bed very early indeed and had slept the whole night through.
Then Old Dame Nature asked Peter Rabbit what he had found among the egg shells that morning.
Peter Rabbit hopped out and laid three long black hairs before Old Dame Nature. "These," said Peter Rabbit "are what I found among the egg shells."
Then Old Dame Nature called Johnny Chuck. "Tell us, Johnny Chuck," said she, "what you saw when you called at Jimmy Skunk's house this morning."
"I saw Jimmy Skunk," said Johnny Chuck, "and Jimmy seemed very, very sleepy. It seemed to me that his whiskers were yellow."
"That will do," said Old Dame Nature, and then she called Old Mother West Wind.
"What time did you come down on the Green Meadows this morning?"
"Just at the break of day," said Old Mother West Wind, "as Mr. Sun was coming up from behind the Purple Hills."
"And whom did you see so early in the morning?" asked Old Dame Nature.
"I saw Bobby Coon going home from old Farmer Brown's cornfield," said Old Mother West Wind. "I saw Hooty the Owl coming back from the lower end of the Green Meadows. I saw Peter Rabbit down in the berry patch. Last of all I saw something like a black shadow coming down the Lone Little Path toward the house of Jimmy Skunk."
Every one was looking very hard at Jimmy Skunk. Jimmy began to look very unhappy and very uneasy.
"Who wears a black coat?" asked Dame Nature.
"Jimmy Skunk!" shouted all the little meadow folks.
"What MIGHT make whiskers yellow?" asked Old Dame Nature.
No one seemed to know at first. Then Peter Rabbit spoke up. "It MIGHT be the yolk of an egg," said Peter Rabbit.
"Who are likely to be sleepy on a bright sunny morning?" asked Old Dame Nature.
"People who have been out all night," said Johnny Chuck, who himself always goes to bed with the sun.
"Jimmy Skunk," said Old Dame Nature, and her voice was very stern, very stern indeed, and her face was very grave. "Jimmy Skunk, I accuse you of having broken and eaten the eggs of Mrs. Grouse. What have you to say for yourself?"
Jimmy Skunk hung his head. He hadn't a word to say. He just wanted to sneak away by himself.
"Jimmy Skunk," said Old Dame Nature, "because your handsome black coat of which you are so proud has made it possible for you to move about in the night without being seen, and because we can no longer trust you upon your honor, henceforth you and your descendants shall wear a striped coat, which is the sign that you cannot be trusted. Your coat hereafter shall be black and white, that when you move about in the night you will always be visible."
And this is why that to this day Jimmy Skunk wears a striped suit of black and white.
CHAPTER V THE WILFUL LITTLE BREEZE
Old Mother West Wind was tired--tired and just a wee bit cross-- cross because she was tired. She had had a very busy day. Ever since early morning she had been puffing out the white sales of the ships on the big ocean so that they could go faster; she had kept all the big and little wind mills whirling and whirling to pump water for thirsty folks and grind corn for hungry folks; she had blown away all the smoke from tall chimneys and engines and steamboats. Yes, indeed, Old Mother West Wind had been very, very busy.
Now she was coming across the Green Meadows on her way to her home behind the Purple Hills, and as she came she opened the big bag she carried and called to her children, the Merry Little Breezes, who had been playing hard on the Green Meadows all the long day. One by one they crept into the big bag, for they were tired, too, and ready to go to their home behind the Purple Hills.
Pretty soon all were in the bag but one, a willful little Breeze, who was not quite ready to go home; he wanted to play just a little longer. He danced ahead of Old Mother West Wind. He kissed the sleepy daisies. He shook the nodding buttercups. He set all the little poplar leaves a dancing, too, and he wouldn't come into the big bag. So Old Mother West Wind closed the big bag and slung it over her shoulder. Then she started on towards her home behind the Purple Hills.
When she had gone, the willful little Breeze left behind suddenly felt very lonely--very lonely indeed! The sleepy daisies didn't want to play. The nodding buttercups were cross. Great round bright Mr. Sun, who had been shining and shining all day long, went to bed and put on his night cap of golden clouds. Black shadows came creeping, creeping out into the Green Meadows.
The willful little Breeze began to wish that he was safe in Old Mother West Wind's big bag with all the other Merry Little Breezes.
So he started across the Green Meadows to find the Purple Hills. But all the hills were black now and he could not tell which he should look behind to find his home with Old Mother West Wind and the Merry Little Breezes. How he did wish that he had minded Old Mother West Wind.
By and by he curled up under a bayberry bush and tried to go to sleep, but he was lonely, oh, so lonely! And he couldn't go to sleep. Old Mother Moon came up and flooded all the Green Meadows with light, but it wasn't like the bright light of jolly round Mr. Sun, for it was cold and white and it made many black shadows.
Pretty soon the willful little Breeze heard Hooty the Owl out hunting for a meadow mouse for his dinner. Then down the Lone Little Path which ran close to the bayberry bush trotted Reddy Fox. He was trotting very softly and every minute or so he turned his head and looked behind him to see if he was followed. It was plain to see that Reddy Fox was bent on mischief.
When he reached the bayberry bush Reddy Fox sat down and barked twice. Hooty the Owl answered him at once and flew over to join him. They didn't see the willful little Breeze curled up under the bayberry bush, so intent were these two rogues in plotting mischief. They were planning to steal down across the Green Meadows to the edge of the Brown Pasture where Mr. Bob White and pretty Mrs. Bob White and a dozen little Bob Whites had their home.
"When they run along the ground I'll catch 'em, and when they fly up in the air you'll catch 'em, and we'll gobble 'em all up," said Reddy Fox to Hooty the Owl. Then he licked his chops and Hooty the Owl snapped his bill, just as if they were tasting tender little Bob Whites that very minute. It made the willful little Breeze shiver to see them. Pretty soon they started on towards the Brown Pasture.
When they were out of sight the willful little Breeze jumped up and shook himself. Then away he sped across the Green Meadows to the Brown Pasture. And because he could go faster and because he went a shorter way he got there first. He had to hunt and hunt to find Mrs. and Mr. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites, but finally he did find them, all with their heads tucked under their wings fast asleep.
The willful little Breeze shook Mr. Bob White very gently. In an instant he was wide awake.
"Sh-h-h," said the willful little Breeze. "Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl are coming to the Brown Pasture to gobble up you and Mrs. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites."
"Thank you, little Breeze," said Mr. Bob White, "I think I'll move my family."
Then he woke Mrs. Bob White and all the little Bob Whites. With Mr. Bob White in the lead away they all flew to the far side of the Brown Pasture where they were soon safely hidden under a juniper tree.
The willful little Breeze saw them safely there, and when they were nicely hidden hurried back to the place where the Bob Whites had been sleeping. Reddy Fox was stealing up through the grass very, very softly. Hooty the Owl was flying as silently as a shadow. When Reddy Fox thought he was near enough he drew himself
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